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The Political Ideologies of Law Clerks


  • Adam Bonica
  • Adam S. Chilton
  • Jacob Goldin
  • Kyle Rozema
  • Maya Sen


In order to study the political ideologies of judicial law clerks in the United States, we construct a novel dataset that combines information on the identity of clerks with a measure of political ideology based on political donations. We then use this data to empirically investigate several important questions about the ideologies of clerks. First, we examine whether clerks tend to share the liberal ideology of other lawyers or the more conservative ideology associated with federal judges and find that clerks tend to be disproportionately liberal. Second, we investigate how the ideologies of clerks compares to the ideologies of lawyers and find that liberal lawyers are more likely to have clerked than conservatives. Third, we assess whether the ideologies of clerks differs based on the level of clerkship and find that the liberal skew becomes less pronounced as the prestige of the clerkship increases. Fourth, we analyze the relationship between ideology and the hiring of clerks and find that the ideology of judges is strongly correlated with the ideology of their clerks.

Suggested Citation

  • Adam Bonica & Adam S. Chilton & Jacob Goldin & Kyle Rozema & Maya Sen, 2017. "The Political Ideologies of Law Clerks," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(1), pages 96-128.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:19:y:2017:i:1:p:96-128.

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    Cited by:

    1. Bonica, Adam & Chilton, Adam & Rozema, Kyle & Sen, Maya, 2017. "The Legal Academy's Ideological Uniformity," Working Paper Series rwp17-023, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    2. Sandro Ambuehl & Vivienne Groves, 2017. "Unraveling Over Time," CESifo Working Paper Series 6739, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • M51 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Firm Employment Decisions; Promotions


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